Officials of the Martin-Marietta Corporation have asked the Montgomery County Council to cancel plans to build an overpass near the firm's property in Bethesda because the construction would stop another prominent firm from moving in.
A Martin-Marietta representative told the council Tuesday that a company of "high character and high caliber" wants to buy five acres from Martin-Marietta, but the overpass would cut through the property. The firm, the representative said, refuses to purchase the land until the overpass proposal is removal from the county's master plan.
Martin-Marietta saked the county to delete the overpass from the Cabin John Watershed Master Plan. The proposal was opposed by residents living south of Democracy Boulevard. The council is expected to make a decision within several weeks.
The proposed overpass would connect Fernwood Road east of I-270 with Westlake Terrace west of I-270 near Montgomery Mall. Martin-Marietta lawyers argued that its original purpose was to divert traffic from Democracy Boulevard. But, they said, if the overpass were built it would not handle a significant amount of the traffic.
If the overpass were built on what is known as the Davis tract, it might create a new traffic problem, said Robert L. Morris, a traffic consultant hired by Martin-Marietta. The overpass would connect with roads leading past Walter Johnson High School on Rock Spring Drive, northeast of the Martin-Marietta site.
"In effect, you would be directing through traffic in front of Walter Johnson," said Morris.
"It's our view that the overpass will be of little benefit to the area," said Martin-Marietta lawyer Howard J. Thomas. "Yet, we find citizens opposing one of the very best of corporations that would be attractive, bring in property taxes and provide jobs. Frankly, I thought the citizens would be supporting us.
Martin-Marietta officials and county development officials have kept the identity of the "high quality" company a secret at the request of the company, according to county officials.
"I don't object to a company coming in," said Robert Wilson, president of the West Fernwood Citizens Association, "but I do object to the county falling over dead to accommodate a company, when their own citizens are not willing to pay the price - the loss of the overpass."
Wilson's organization hired its own traffic consultant. "He confirmed that excess traffic from the Davis tract, especially if it is developed fully, would spill over into our neighborhoods," said Wilson. "With the bridge, there would be a better flow of traffic from the Davis tract and Montgomery Mall and it would permit another east-west corridor."
None of the council members asked Martin-Marietta or county officials the name of the mystery company. "It really doesn't matter to us," said Council Member Esther Gelman. "That's outside of zoning. We shouldn't know. A master plan change should be done on the merits of the change, not on who we like or don't like."*